| by QBI Solutions

Solar Performance Analysis: Best Practices

The Merriam-Webster.com dictionary defines best practice as “a procedure that has been shown by research and experience to produce optimal results and that is established or proposed as a standard suitable for widespread adoption.” Like many other industries, the solar energy industry applies best practices to outline quality in different areas and carry out a performance analysis.

For any solar PV operator, two aspects of the plant are essential: The plant availability and the percentage of energy output from the plant compared to the amount harnessed. Based on the definition above, the ability of the operator to determine the accurate amount of energy harnessed and that available from the plant is crucial. 

Maintaining a solar plant at peak performance is a result of flawless solar performance analysis leading to timely identification of issues, and repairs. Continual performance analysis of a solar plant is important, and the quality of the performance analysis itself matters too. 

The quality of solar performance analysis depends on an array of factors. In this article, we look at five best practices that illuminate the dimensions of this analysis, essential when using a solar asset management software.  

The Transparency of Measurement Protocols and Procedures

An open standard is characterized by free availability for anyone who wants to adopt, implement, or update it. We all have experienced the benefits of open standards for information, for instance in regards to HTML. Transparency of standards is relevant in solar performance analysis as applied in device communication, data collection, information transfer to data storage, and information access. 

Monitoring systems based on proprietary methods may be possible, but there is a need for a common information model for the four levels mentioned above. This not only prevents inconsistencies of mapping across models but also ensures high accuracy. With a standard information model, it is possible to compare one solar system with another. 

It is also important to have a common information model because it discourages the development of custom applications and supply chain risks arising from varying vendor activities. Every segment of the solar plant should apply open standards for communication, with standard protocols such as Wi-Fi and Ethernet taking center stage. 

The Accuracy and Reliability of Sensors and Instruments 

In regards to equipment, networks, and sensors for solar performance analysis, accuracy, and reliability form is another important best practice. This is established with the full knowledge that there is no perfect system; there will always be a measure of uncertainty. Identifying adequate tolerances for the accuracy of measurement is essential in the assessment of the quality of the solar performance analysis system. The utility lays the requirements for the placement of its AC meter. However, the installer is at liberty to place all the other sensors in any manner. Consequently, there has been immense production and measurement uncertainty. 

There are recommended best practices given this challenge. Best practices are also available concerning the depth of instrumentation. In-depth instrumentation is an enhancer of uptime by identifying plant failures and giving predictive indications for plant maintenance. 

The Reliability of Communication on Networks

The solar performance analysis system depends on the capability to gather information from the field and transmit it via a network to the servers. In case a component within the network has malfunctioned and thus not sent reports, it may be impossible to tell the difference between a communication network issue and a component issue. False interpretations and revenue loss can follow the data incompleteness that results. 

Every plant with a capacity over 100KW should have a virtual private network, cellular, or any other type of dedicated network. Smaller plants may use a shared network connection. Use of onsite data storage and the application of standard data encryption methods are also recommended. 

The Ability of Systems to Share Information with Stakeholders

Normally, the information collected by the analysis system is a power plant is shared among about five stakeholders. These include equipment providers, lenders, and the maintenance team. These groups regularly require access to the analyzed data. Information access challenges in the analysis system can lead to a dramatic increase in revenue loss and operating costs. 

The best practice here is the commitment in writing by the service provider to provide information easily and securely. It is also important that there be proper authorization and authentication of access to the analysis system. 

Support Third-Party Access for Custom Application Development

Of late, the development of custom applications has grown tremendously to go in tandem with the unique operational challenges of solar assets. A good example is when a new geographic market means that the business must send data to a new government agency. 

Whenever new assets are added, the potential of the analysis system needing to merge with new data processing systems grows even higher. That’s why solar analysis experts must provide an Application Programming Interface (API) for access to the solar analysis system. 

It is recommended that the analysis system providers reiterate in writing the availability of an Application Programming Interface in their systems. API with web capability is preferable because of the wide range of software development talent. 


By abiding by the best practices of solar performance analysis, solar plant operators and owners can decrease operating costs and still meet the requirements from stakeholders such as grid operators and asset investors. Solar performance analysis strategies that are standard-based provide performance figures that can be independently verified. The supply chain management platforms for a facility that uses this approach are foolproof. 

Solar assets are expected to last for decades. Business opportunities and customer requirements will inevitably vary with time. Owing to this, the information-based application software will constantly be necessary. 

If you are an asset owner with extensive solar assets and are looking to access downstream loans from capital markets, you want to apply the best practices for solar performance analysis discussed here. This method will increase investor confidence and enhance the operational efficiency of your plants. 

Would you like to contribute to this topic or ask a question? Reach QBI experts here today. 

Best Practices